December 3, 2010

South Panola wraps up state title, waits for national

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

The leader is now in the clubhouse.

Batesville (Miss.) South Panola, No. 1 in the RivalsHigh 100, defeated No. 37 Meridian (Miss.) High, 28-7, Friday night in Jackson to win the Mississippi Class 6A state title.

It may have all but clinched a national title as well.

"South Panola has been up there for the last decade," head coach Lance Pogue said. "For us to even be in the discussion for a national title is an honor. Hopefully we have done enough to earn it."

The win doesn't altogether seal the national championship for South Panola but the dominating performance the Tigers used in its victory - on a night in which so many ranked lost or struggled - seemingly puts some distance between the Tigers and the teams which have yet to wrap up their seasons.

South Panola had more than 400 yards of total offense - 269 yards rushing and 133 through the air - and it used a steady mix of run and pass combined with a physical defense to wear down its opponent.

An opponent that came into the game undefeated at 14-0 and having given up only 92 points in those games.

"We knew they would be tough," Pogue said. "But our team just kept wearing them down.

"Between (Quin) Griffin, (Antonio) Connor, (Nikolas) Brassell, and (Kendrick) Market, we have a lot of playmakers and those guys took over."

The star of the show was Griffin, who rushed for 174 yards and two scores while also gathering in 81 yards through the air - 67 of which came on a clutch third-down conversion - and a score.

"Coach told us at halftime we had to make the plays," Griffin said. "We just kept on them all game."

Griffin, who was a backup player on the defense last year, eclipsed 3,000 yards on the year despite barely playing into the second half of most games.

He gave a lot of the credit to the work ethic and momentum stealing ability for the win.

"We just work hard," he said. "We work hard all year. We know if the defense gets us the ball back and we score, then they do it again, we do it again. We feed off each other. Once it gets rolling, it is hard to slow us down."

That point was not more evident than late in the third quarter. Following a Meridian touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7, Griffin and Market struck..

"It was a play-action pass," Pogue described. "Kendrick is a great athlete and he made the pass to Quin. They both are playmakers."

The play, which Market threw across his body and back to the middle of the field, went for 67 yards and set up a game-sealing - and momentum-stealing - touchdown from sophomore sensation Antonio Conner.

"We just let the three horsemen out on that drive," Griffin said. "That is what we like to do."

The horsemen featured youngster Antonio Connor - who punched in the 6-yard touchdown and extended the lead for South Panola.

"Antonio was big for us as a freshman," Pogue said. "And he came up big again this year."

It was not just on offense. Connor had two first-half interceptions that thwarted Meridian scoring attempts and helped get the team headed in the right direction.

"He swung the game with both of those plays," Pogue said. "We made some mistakes in the first half, and we were lucky they didn't burn us too bad, we knew we had to be ready to play."

The difference between good and great can be measured in state titles. A total that now stands at nine for the Tigers in the last 20 years.

The ultimate prize, a national title, is still in the balance. Power states Texas, Florida, California and Ohio still have games to be played.

"We would love to be national champions," Pogue said. "It would be big for us, big for Batesville and big for Mississippi. Our state has never had a national title and we would love to bring one home."

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